CONYERS - On a cold and windy night better suited for football than baseball, Heritage captured its first Region 8-AAAA win with a 9-6 come-from-behind effort over visiting Habersham County.
The Raiders jumped out to a 5-1 advantage in the top of the third, but Heritage came back with three runs in the bottom of the third and three more in the bottom of the fourth to regain the lead and then stayed in control the rest of the way.
"They came in here and got after it and got up on us," Heritage coach Casey Teal said. "But we responded and did what we needed to do to get back in the game and got a win."
Patriots starting pitcher Brandon Thomas was hit hard the first three innings, but a misjudged fly ball and a throwing error also contributed to the Raiders' early scoring. Thomas gave up five runs to Habersham before giving way to reliever Chase Ware with two outs in the bottom of the third and the bases loaded. Ware got the all-important third out to limit the damage to only two runs that inning.
Heritage began chipping away at the deficit in the bottom of the third when shortstop Nick Woodward drew a walk and then stole second base. Patriot centerfielder Joseph Lester also walked and then both runners advanced on a check-swing grounder to the pitcher by catcher Tyler Austin. Woodward scored on a wild pitch before first baseman Travis Tarleton ripped a single to bring home Lester for the Patriots' second run of the inning.
Heritage scored again to narrow the score to 5-4 when second baseman Elliott Walker walked and raced around first base toward second to bring a throw and a deliberate run-down that allowed Tarleton to cross home plate.
Ware shut down Harbersham in the top of the fourth with the help of a nice play by Austin when he picked off a Raider napping at first base. Heritage regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth with two outs when right fielder Ryan Cochran and left fielder Zane Barefield both drew walks to set the table for Woodward, who promptly drilled a shot through the cold air over the right field fence for an opposite-field home run.
"Cochran and Barefield had good at-bats that inning, and Woodward went with the pitch," Teal said. "That was good work, good baseball, and that's what we try to work on here - good, fundamental baseball."
Heritage added to its lead with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth on fundamental baseball. Designated hitter Anthony Bazzani singled and later scored, as did Thomas, who moved to second base when relieved of his pitching duties by Ware. Thomas was plated by a sharp bunt from Woodward.
Habersham refused to go quietly in the seventh when catcher Jay Thomas led off the inning with a home run. But Ware settled in and got the next three batters to complete the win for Heritage.
The win ups Heritage's record to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in regional play. The Patriots will host crosstown rival Rockdale on Monday night.